From the NYT, a new finding about salt.
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.
We’ve seen evidence about salt’s benign role before.
Does this mean we should cut loose and salt it up?
There’s no evidence to suggest otherwise. The rational thing to do – based on empirical evidence – is to make no change to your salt intake. There’s no evidence that it’s bad for you. None at all.
Salt is an ancient and versatile flavor enhancer. It makes food taste good, and we now know that it has no measurable detrimental effect on your health. Plus it’s vital to your body’s function. Salt deficiency is a known and serious problem. So let’s quit the crusade against this necessary and delicious flavor and get back to enjoying our food.
Don’t take my word for it. Salt denialists are not hard to find.
Mandelbrot was an intellectual outsider, an independent thinker who found no solace in the halls of academia. ““I saw no compatibility between a university position in France and my still-burning wild ambition,” he wrote. He left the crusty halls of French universities to America, where he got a job at IBM. With access to their powerful and state-of-the-art mainframes, he developed his now famous work on fractals.
One application of fractals was to financial markets; but while Mandelbrot sets have become a household name, their use in finance has never caught on. His marginalisation by economics caused him great resentment.
The fractal model of financial markets that Mandelbrot went on to develop has never caught on with finance professors, who still by and large cling to the efficient market hypothesis. If Mandelbrot’s analysis is right, reliance on orthodox models is dangerous. And so it has proved, on more than one occasion. In the summer of 1998, for example, Long-Term Capital Management—a hedge fund founded by two economists who had won Nobel Prizes for their work in portfolio theory and staffed with twenty-five Ph.D.s—blew up and nearly took down the world’s banking system when an unforeseen Russian financial crisis foiled its models.
But what would a fractal based financial model look like? Is the reticence due to inertia and resistance to a paradigm shift? Or are fractals simply too complicated to be of practical use in a large scale modeling environment like finance? A Mandelbrotian financial model would have to have superior predictive power across a wide range of situations; the observation that financial patterns are fractal in nature might not be enough to generate the powerful modelling that’s needed.
Outsiders play an important role in intellectual discourse as they can often lead to surprising insights and new ways of looking at phenomena. however they are prey to the Maverick’s Fallacy which is that “all resistance to the Maverick’s ideas is due to their ‘outsider’ or ‘maverick’ status.”
Sometimes that’s the cause of resistance; sometimes it’s not.
Have you ever been dreaming and suddenly realized that you were in fact in a dream?
That’s lucid dreaming.
Until recently lucid dreaming wasn’t even studied by sleep scientists because they didn’t believe in it. The notion of consciousness during sleep seemed to be a contradiction and an impossibility.
Not everyone can or does lucid dream, but those who do report that once their brain twigs to the fact that “this is just a dream,” they can then control what happens in the dream. Thus they can decide to fly, have super strength, reset the dream, or change to a completely different dream. It sounds cool, and for this reason, some people try to teach themselves to lucid dream. Techniques to do this include keeping a dream journal, and setting your alarm to wake you at unusual times of the night.
But now, if a new technique proves effective, a machine might help. A mask worn when you sleep that blinks red lights into your eyes may be the key to teaching people to lucid dream. The idea is that over time the flashing red light acts as a signal to you, to alert you that you are dreaming. And when your brain learns the association your brain will get the signal that it’s in a dream state. The mask, called ‘Remee,‘ is the invention of a Brooklyn based lab run by Steve McGuigan and Duncan McCloud Frazier, who set up Bitbanger Labs to develop the mask with Kickstarter funding.
“The first time anybody lucid dreams and manages to stay asleep, [they choose] to fly,” said McGuigan. “It’s an exhilarating feeling to fly in your dreams. But there are still so many things that you can do. Their creative output is just different inside a dream.”
Living in your own Matrix/Inception fantasy every night sounds like fun. But after the night-time adventures, what’s the effect on your brain and are there any risks?
The little scientific evidence is mixed. One study showed a correlation between lucid dreaming and depression. But another study found that it was beneficial, with lucid dreaming linked to resilience to stressful events.
On the one hand lucid dreaming seems to just happen naturally in some individuals, so maybe it gets a pass as a natural phenomenon.
On the other hand, training your brain to have vivid dreams and exciting experiences, like anything, could easily become an addictive or obsessive behavior. At face value it looks like just one more activity like all the existing activities that humans get addicted to.
Is it a good idea to live the most interesting and exciting part of your life in your dreams, when you’re asleep? Is it healthy to systematically disrupt your sleep patterns in order to train your sleeping brain to do dream gymnastics? There’s no evidence to say either way. It’s early days for the science of sleep and for systematic, empirical investigations of dreams.
I’m sure the Remee will provide hours of entertainment to many but until the science is in on lucid dreaming and its effects on mental wellbeing, I’ll give it a pass.